In honor of Veterans Day, HBO is releasing a new documentary, Underfire, to streaming customers ahead of its November 14 television debut. The one-hour feature tells the story of 21-year-old Tony Vaccaro, a private in the U.S. Army during World War II. Vaccaro, a draftee, had wanted to join the Army Signal Corps as a photographer, but was told he was too young.
Vaccaro’s desire to join the Signal Corps wasn’t because it was a safer assignment — out of 62 individuals, seven were killed, 14 wounded, and three captured, according to Time. Vaccaro simply loved photography. So when he was assigned to the 83rd Infantry Division, he broke regulations to bring with him a $47 camera.
As an infantryman, Vaccaro’s photographs revealed a perspective on the war that was unique. It was the soldiers’ point of view. The other men trusted him and respected him in a way that went beyond the normal relationship between soldiers and Army photographers.
Shooting pictures in a war zone is no small task, but Vaccaro credits photography for keeping him going. “The camera helped me to survive,” he says in the preview for the film.
He spent 272 days with the 83rd. By the war’s end, he returned home with more than 8,000 photographs from the front lines. He later embarked on a career in news.
Underfire can be streamed today, November 11, on HBO Go, HBO Now, and On Demand. It will air on television at 2 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Monday, November 14. PT. You can watch a preview of the film above, which includes a selection of Vaccaro’s photos from World War II.